In my trip to Paris last year, I not only made sure to visit a number of the best patisseries (Pierre Hermé, Ladurée and Gérard Mulot), but also boulangeries.  The bread I sampled at these bakeries was truly a treat.  Back home, I have been inspired to bake my own bread.

I have been reading a great reference on sourdoughs called Local Breads by Daniel Leader.  It focuses on regional specialities across France, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic.  I have also supplemented my bread research with a sourdough class.  Last week I attended a Sourdough and Artisan Bread class with Brett Noy at Black Pearl Epicure.  We covered the fundamentals, of sourdough, made white and wholemeal dough plus our own levain to take home.

I love the slightly sour taste of these breads, and this crusty loaf was baked last weekend as my first foray into the artisanal bread world. 

Despite the probably more appropriate choices of continental butter and fruit conserves as an accompanying condiment, I must confess that this bread tastes delicious with vegemite, too.  Perhaps sacrilege, but it is the Australian in me!

I have a range of other bread delights to bake this month.  Many probably better for my waistline than my recent spell of maracon baking.  Some, well, not so sure…  But for now, it is all about the sourdough.

welsh-lady-cakeThe Welsh Lady is a bit of an institution in Brisbane.  This exclusive bakery in Rosalie produces beautifully rich celebration cakes laced with liqueurs, sandwiched with creamy delights, topped with lashings of European chocolate, and decorated like a piece of art.

I have been fortunate to sample a handful of these creations over the years.  Needless to say, all absolutely delicious!  So when I stumbled upon an opportunity to learn to create a wedding cake with Gwen herself, I jumped at the chance.

I enrolled in a class organised through Black Pearl Epicure and eagerly counted down the days.  So eagerly in fact I actually turned up a day early by accident.  (Whoops!)

The class covered many aspects of wedding cake making, from the basic cake to icing selection and decoration.  We worked with a basic mud cake as base and a number of icings such as fresh cream, ganache and meringue.  The cakes were decorated with curls, chards, chocolate collars, and of course, fresh flowers. 

I was allocated the meringue frosting for my cake, and was pleased with the drawcard when Gwen revealed it was the Martha Stewart seven-minute recipe.  I had worked with that particular recipe before and love Martha so the how could I go wrong? 

During the assembly of the cake, baking turned somewhat into carpentry as dowels were sawn down to precise measurements to insert into the cake and provide stability between the layers.  The cake was then covered with ganache, slightly cooled and then the meringue frosting was applied.  The cake was then decorated with simple flowers and greenery.

I managed get my cake home fairly unscathed.  After a few touch ups, I was able to snap off a few photos as a reminder.  The next day, I lugged the (very heavy after carrying for a while!) two-tier cake into the office for all my co-workers to consume.  A brief mention that the cake was created with the assistance of the Welsh Lady, and it was gone in a flash.   Thanks, Gwen!